31 December 2007

Baked Mac and Cheese

I had a sudden craving for homemade mac and cheese today. I'm not really sure why, since I don't really remember eating homemade mac and cheese - my grandma sometimes made it, but she always put tomatoes in it, and I hated that. I only really remember my mom making the stuff from a box. The closest thing I've ever made was a chili-cheese spaghetti, but it was made with cheez whiz and baked with extra cheese on top. I don't own or cook with cheese product any more, so... that wasn't really a usable recipe this go around.

Since I didn't have a recipe to follow, I looked at a couple online first. The basic gist of it seemed to be "Make a roux, whisk in milk, melt in cheese, pour over pasta and bake until bubbly." So that's what I did. (Without following any particular recipe. It didn't seem complicated and it wasn't.)

The only problem I have with this lunch is that who really wants a nice green salad with the tastiest tomatoes I've had since early September when there's still half a dish of the mac and cheese waiting for someone's hungry tummy?

30 December 2007

Spicy Peanut Chicken and Vegetables

This might be the last new thing I make in 2007. (I haven't decided yet if I'm going to cook tomorrow or just eat something from the freezer.) If it does turn out to be the last new thing... it was a tasty last new thing.

I used the sauce from a cold chicken salad recipe and turned it into a hot chicken... not salad. Here's the recipe (for one):

Whisk together, taste, adjust as necessary to taste, and set aside:
- juice of half a lime and an equal amount of soy sauce
- a few drops of sesame oil
- a few drops of hot sauce
- 1 tbsp peanut butter (if you have the unsweetened stuff, you'll need to add a tsp or so of honey or something else sweet)

Next, cook about 30 grams of rice vermicelli and fry up half a chicken breast (use oil or spray if necessary). Set aside. Sauté a big handful of green/wax beans and baby carrots until tender-crisp. (Or use a frozen mix and cook until just heated through.) Add chicken back to the pan; stir together. Remove from the heat. Pour dressing over all and toss to coat. Serve over noodles or stir noodles into the veg/chicken mix. Top with about a tbsp of chopped peanuts and serve.

I think this would be really nice with cilantro in it as well, though I didn't try that. I think the freshness of the cilantro would perk it up a little, though I did think it was pretty good as is.

27 December 2007

Turkey Tomato Soup with Piroshki

I didn't feel like a sandwich tonight, but wanted to use some of the leftover turkey, so I made a tomato soup. It's a variation on my favourite Pasta Fagiole recipe, with different herbs and turkey instead of beans. Very tasty. It's quite thick though and I think tomorrow's leftover soup is going to be like eating a stew instead of a soup. I'll thin it with a little water though, if it's too thick.

My mom made the piroshki and brought up quite a few of them for Christmas dinner (there isn't one in my picture, though, I don't think). These were stuffed with ground beef and sauerkraut, though I think some had bacon and sauerkraut instead. Tasty goodness.

Christmas Dinner

I could say a million things about this, but I don't really feel up to it - I'm tired and it's two days too late already and somehow that makes it seem an impossible task.

Another fairly typical family dinner at my house. Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing (from a box), Russian potato salad, Cucumber and Tomato Salad. The only change is this time I also made roasted asparagus and red peppers to go along with it. Delicious all around.

The big difference this time is the dessert that our guest brought - Sticky Date Pudding. (Did I get the name right?)It was delicious anyway, and a nice end to Christmas dinner. Sweet and tasty and good.

21 December 2007

Sweet Chicken Chickpea Curry

This is a sort of strange curry, or at least strange compared to most of the ones I've had before. It's quite sweet - it has mincemeat in it - but also quite spicy.

It's another of the recipes from the Sandi Richard book, but I used half chicken and half chickpeas, rather than just chicken (or tofu, which was her vegetarian suggestion). The flavour of the curry was really well suited to the chickpeas and I think I could make it (and enjoy it) with chickpeas only, rather than both the beans and meat.

20 December 2007

Honey-Soy Chicken on Rice with Sautéed Vegetables

I've had a few too many bouts of laziness this week. So this was a good way to get back into the cooking thing, although Christmas and guests are going to mess that up before I can restart the habit. (My parents are coming up for a few days, so mostly we'll be eating out a fair bit, I think.)

The chicken was... probably not all that much like it was meant to be, but I didn't have enough of two or three of the ingredients, so I just kind of did what I could and added things until the marinade tasted good. And it was good. A bit like a teriyaki sauce, but more subtle. I don't really know how to explain the taste, but it was really nice.

The vegetables were just very basic - cut up, sautéed with a little oil and Mrs Dash seasoning, eaten. And very good. The zucchini was perfect and I could eat sautéed mushrooms every day.

18 December 2007

Chipotle Steak with Balsamic Reduction, Mashed Potatoes, and Marinated

Oh, hello, overcooked meat. This is what happens when you take a bathroom break in the middle of things. And read a short chapter in a book. And then go back to dinner and think, huh, maybe I should flip this.

The inside, actually, was very nicely cooked. Just rare enough for me, but the one side was so, um, well-seared that it was a bit like a nice steak topped with shoe leather. The overcooking, at any rate, was kind of irrelevant, since I didn't like the taste of the seasoning on the steak in combination with the reduction. (The balsamic reduction tasted fantastic on mashed potatoes, however.)

I think this photo does a nice job of illustrating for me why food photographers sometimes let a part of the meal blur out of focus. In the cookbook, you don't see the vegetables. In my photo, you see balsamic vinegar stained cucumber. Still the vegetables tasted fantastic, however awful they look.

17 December 2007

Hazelnut Cookies

It seems like the only time of year that I bake is just before Christmas. I don't really like baking, and I'm not really very good at it, but I guess it's the one time of year that baking feels like it'll be worth the effort. Last year I made a ton of different cookies and gave them away as gifts to some of my family. This year I'm not seeing most of them, so I'm not going to quite so much effort.

The last batch of cookies (Chocolate Toffee Cookies) are already gone - I gave most of them away to a few friends at work. So today I started a second batch of cookies, which will also mostly be given away. I think I'll freeze a few to have around at Christmas, but otherwise I don't need so much tasty goodness sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be eaten.

These cookies came out quite good. They're really soft with bits of toasted hazelnut throughout. My favourite cookies are always soft ones, so this was a great recipe for that. I need to fiddle around with the cooking temperature though, because the bottoms darkened up a little too much. They're not burned, at all, but I'd like it if they were a little lighter on the bottom, and didn't form such a thick crust on the base.

If I can talk myself into it, I may buy some white chocolate to melt and drizzle over top. But probably not, they're pretty good without.

16 December 2007

Salmon with Cranberry Lime Sauce, Rice, and Broccoli

I think it's pretty clear that my sauce didn't quite enter sauce territory. It's really more cranberry-lime juice, but I did reduce the heck out of that stuff until there was nearly none left and I finally gave up on the whole thickening portion of the recipe. Kind of pretty though, even pooled under my broccoli. It's no wonder the recipe photo has it shown on a red plate - you can't see the sauce in the picture, so you don't know that it's not really a sauce at all.

Anyway, this was really tasty, though the flavour of the salmon was quite evident. (I usually prefer fish that doesn't really taste like anything, though I make an exception, rarely, for salmon not from a can.) The cranberry-lime was a little too sweet, but it really suited the fish. (The sweetness was only really evident when I was eating the last bits of rice that had become saturated in the juice.)

The broccoli I steamed in one of those new microwave steam bags you can get from Glad or Ziploc. (I forget which brand I've got.) It worked quite nicely, and no clean-up after, but I don't think I'll waste the money on them again, once I run out. It's not that much more complicated to steam vegetables in a pot on the stove, and that at least doesn't leave you with extra garbage.

13 December 2007

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

I didn't feel like making dinner today, so I made cookies instead.

These are maybe the world's most simple cookies ever, but I can't really decide if I like them. The chocolate taste isn't strong enough - maybe I should have added a tablespoon of coffee? Coffee is supposed to bring out the chocolate, isn't it? And they came out a little drier than I expected. They're made out of a boxed cake mix (and a few other ingredients), and because of that I think I expected them to be more cakey in texture than they are. They had more of a crunch than I'd hoped for.

12 December 2007

Tortellini with Tomato Tapenade and Glazed Green Beans

I always thought that a tapenade was made of olives (and some other things), but this doesn't have an olive in it. (Thank god, as I don't like olives.) Maybe they called it a tapenade because it sounds good with the alliteration.

Anyway, this dinner had a couple weird flavour combinations that somehow came together anyway. The first is the tomato tapenade, which is made of fresh salsa, maple syrup and basil pesto. Strange. But strangely compelling. Incredibly lazy though. I feel like I should at least have chopped up my own tomatoes instead of buying fresh salsa from a deli. Or maybe made my own pesto instead of using the jarred stuff.

The second weird thing was the beans, which are flavoured with soy sauce and lemon pepper seasoning. I think I prefer a non-soy doused green bean - I love green beans, but maybe I'm a bit of a purist in the sense that I want my green beans to taste like green beans instead of like any sort of sauce - but they were actually pretty good, even with lemon pepper and soy on them.

11 December 2007

Soft Taco, Unrolled

These things just don't photograph that well when they're rolled, or maybe I just don't know how to photograph them. So instead, I left it open.

Pretty standard, pretty boring to look at and to cook, but very tasty. And it took about... 10 minutes to make.

I made the beef filling out of the spare burger I made a few days ago. I hadn't cooked it before freezing it, and it didn't have egg in it or anything, so I just crumbled it up and cooked it with a few extra spices and some onion. A good use of leftovers, that.

10 December 2007

Red Snapper with Pineapple Salsa, Pecan Wild Rice, and Sautéed

Cooking fish makes me nervous. Actually, just eating fish sort of makes me nervous. It somehow seems impossibly hard to cook, and I always always assume that I won't like it, even though I haven't run into that many fish dishes that I've not liked.

It's probably partly that I'm scared of fish - I can barely look at them, from larger dead ones in the store to goldfishes in a fishbowl - and partly that my main experiences with fish when I was younger weren't too great. And, too, I come from the prairies. The ocean was a two day drive away. Fish wasn't (and still isn't) a terribly common protein choice. Of the four large grocery stores in my hometown, none have a fresh fish counter. When my mom cooked fish, it came out of a box that said "Highliner" or "Bluewater" on the side.

And then my other experience was going to an uncle's place in BC and my mom canning salmon there. They took this giant, freezer length salmon out of the freezer, and did whatever they did and we can home with jars upon jars of the stuff. I hated it. (My sister still refuses to eat salmon.)

Since then I've had it a few times. Once at a nice restaurant here in Calgary (Chicago Chophouse, what I had is no longer on the menu, though), and I've made it a couple times. This is probably the best fish I've ever made.

I really liked the texture of this fish, and the taste, with or without the salsa. I found the salsa a bit too sweet, but it was just spicy enough. I was a little worried about the salsa because it asked for "hot curry paste" and I never quite know what to use. I had Thai red curry paste, Tikka curry paste, and Butter Chicken curry paste in the fridge, but I always wonder what sort of curry paste they're actually asking for. (I used the Thai one.)

I found the rice a little boring. The pecans were an essentially useless addition, since I neither tasted them nor felt them when I was eating. I can't actually remember biting into a piece of it. I was supposed to use a white and wild rice blend, but I already had a brown and wild rice blend, so I used that. I don't know if that affected the outcome, but it might have, since the brown blend has a stronger flavour of its own than a white blend might have had.

I was going to serve green beans with this, which I think would have looked nicer (too much chopped stuff all over the place in this picture), but I had half a green pepper and an ageing tomato hanging out in the crisper, so I thought I'd better use it up before it went bad. I just very quickly sautéed them with some onion, thyme and basil.

Anyway, this is another of the Sandi Richard recipes, and I think it's a keeper.

08 December 2007

Couscous with Mushrooms and Mixed Beans

This is another of the Sandi Richard recipes, but one of her vegetarian options. She tries to give a vegetarian version of all her recipes so that if a family is mixed vegetarian/omnivore the same meal can be served to everyone with a few simple changes.

The original recipe was a big nasty looking hunk of ribs with a side of couscous and steamed broccoli. I'm not a particular fan of ribs - too much effort for not enough reward. (I know not everyone shares that opinion, but.) So I decided to try her vegetarian version instead.

The original couscous recipe was a fairly basic thing with mushrooms, tomato, onion and garlic added, but with the changes, it got mixed beans (the can I bought had garbanzo, red kidney, romano, and black-eyed peas), raisins, and salsa as well. It tasted really good, though next time I'll add a bit more salsa. I'm always a bit sceptical about couscous - my first experience with the stuff was a fairly awful (I thought) dish with slices of oranges and green onions that my mom sort of fell in love with and that I couldn't stomach, much as I tried - so it's good to find recipes that I actually like. (And also, one serving of this? 10 grams of fibre. Which is insane. In a good way. But you have to use whole wheat couscous to manage that.)

The side that I made was a slight variation on Richard's recipe, which was not so much a recipe as just instructions on how to microwave steam broccoli. I briefly sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes with the broccoli before steaming it. Ridiculously tasty.

ETA (10/12/07): The couscous is very good as a cold lunch. I might like it better cold than hot, even, but I do tend to like things better cold so anyone else's mileage might vary.

05 December 2007

Tuna Tetrazzini with Peas and Corn

This is one of those dinners that is really, really unattractive but tastes good enough that you really can't bring yourself to care.

This was kind of a tastier, healthier version of my mom's tuna casserole. (Her version was made of leftover macaroni and cheese, a can of tuna, a bunch of green peas. Baked together until heated through. Eaten as a condiment with ketchup.) (The ketchup was the most important part of mom's tuna casserole. Yum.)

Anyway, this was a dinner that didn't really fill the plate (though it did fill me up), so I kind of mushed it across to fill as much space as I could and then all the baked cheese got kind of buried and and and... yeah. (I'm too tired to sound more interesting or more interested tonight.)

04 December 2007

Asian Meatball Soup

This is my first real miss from the new cookbook. It tastes like a mild soy sauce soup. Who wants to eat soy sauce soup? Not me. Probably not you.

I don't know if I ruined it by not slow-cooking the soup for eight hours, but I did simmer it for a couple hours after work, and I can't see how it could make so much of a difference one way or another.

03 December 2007

Chicken Rollatini with Roasted Sweet Potato and Greek Salad

This is another of the Sandi Richard recipes. Sort of. But not really. The recipe was an asparagus stuffed chicken breast with Hollandaise, but I'm not a big fan of Hollandaise, so since I've made a different asparagus-stuffed chicken dish before, I decided to make it again. (It looked and tasted pretty fantastic, too.) I used green beans this time, though, since the asparagus at the store looked alternately woody or limp and desiccated.

This Greek salad is from SR though. It's a more fussy variation on the one I usually make myself - more herbs and dressings. It tasted quite good, but I'm happy with my plain-jane version.

The sweet potato... well. I don't know. It wasn't meant to be part of the dinner, but I bought one for something last week, but didn't get around to using it, so I decided to roast it tonight. I've never had roasted sweet potatoes before, but they tasted pretty good. I'd just as soon have a regular potato though. (I stole the stacked display from Anthony Sedlak whose show The Main was on tv today while I did some sewing.)

I decided to take a picture of the inside too, since the vegetables didn't peek out the end of the chicken very well. (I should have properly butterflied the chicken breast instead of just using the little flap at the back. It was much too small to really wrap around.) So there you can see the roasted red pepper and the green beans, which were steamed before being stuffed inside and still had a nice bit of crunch.

This was a really filling dinner. And very easy.

02 December 2007

Mexican Burger with Potato Wedges

My burger shrunk in the cooking! If it hadn't, it would have fit that bun perfectly. Alas.

Oh well. I scooped all the innards out of the bun anyway after I took the photo and threw them away. (I like a bun shell much more than I like the bun itself. It's convenient for holding, but not so bready.) And once the insides of the bun were gone, the burger and vegetables all fit nicely inside the shell.

This was really good, anyway. It came from a cookbook that I picked up a few days ago, The Dinner Fix by Sandi Richard. Richard has a tv show on the Canadian food network called Fixing Dinner, which is basically about helping harried families get into a week-night routine of cooking quick, tasty, healthy meals. I don't generally have a problem with my cooking, since I only have to work around my schedule, but I love cookbooks and I was interested in seeing some of her recipes.

I'm actually intending to do a straight week of Dinner Fix recipes (that is five days, since she doesn't worry about the weekend), and this was a pretty good start, I think.

The burger is flavoured with chipotle seasoning, chili powder, cumin, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup. Which made for a very tasty, slightly spicy, moist burger. (It could maybe use an egg, though. It didn't quite want to hold together.) The red onion really complimented the flavour as well. I made two (froze the second for another day) and also made meatballs for dinner on Tuesday. (Her thing: if you've already got ground beef out for one recipe, you might as well prep for another.)

It really was very fast - the prep took just a few minutes - and it cooked in about 12 minutes. All told, probably a 17 minute meal. Which even Rachael Ray could be proud of. (Though she'd have eaten two burgers and twice as many potato wedges. Which she'd have made herself instead of getting them from a bag in the freezer aisle.)

Tortellini Soup with Mushrooms, Spinach and Artichoke Hearts

I haven't felt so much like cooking the last little while again. (On Friday I had... rice crackers for dinner. And chocolate.) But I can't let it turn into a habit, so I made soup for dinner tonight. (Where tonight=Saturday - I'm still awake from working over the night shift, and since I haven't slept yet, it doesn't quite feel like Sunday yet.)

This soup is another recipe from Rachael Ray - About 15 Minute Soup with Spinach, Artichokes and Tortellini - from the same book as the last recipe I made of hers. I had tortellini in the freezer and canned artichoke hearts in the cupboard, so it was convenient that I found a recipe asking for those two things. (Had to buy spinach though...) And it was a soup recipe, which is always fantastic, and even more so now that it's cold as the North Pole around here.

Anyway, it was my first time trying artichoke. It's sort of a strange vegetable and I can't quite decide what to make of it. It didn't taste bad at all, but I don't know that it really tasted of anything. I think I imagined it would be woody, but it wasn't at all.

The soup itself was very good. The spinach stayed really bright and fresh looking and still tasted nice. (Sometimes I find it gets kind of like a little lump of sodden, muddy tasting leaves, which makes me wind up scooping all the spinach out. Generally that's day two of any soup with spinach in it, I find, but still.) The flavour of the tortelloni seemed to suit the soup (although RR does say that you can use any flavour you like so maybe anything would suit the soup). And it was really, really filling.

As usual, RR's portion sizes are insanely huge. The bun lurking in the background of the photo was just for show in the end. What you see in the bowl there is actually only half a serving, and I was pretty close to full by the time I finished that much of it. And I even used 3 oz LESS spinach per person and 1.5 oz LESS pasta per person than the recipe suggested.

27 November 2007

Chicken and Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary Gravy and Steamed Baby Boy Choy

I think there is something wrong with me. Something wrong that makes me incapable of making gravy. I try, I really do, but it just never thickens properly. This kind of gelled a bit, once the leftovers had sat in the pan while I ate, but my bok choy got horribly over-steamed while I fought with the pan of "gravy" and so I gave up and just poured it over everything (everything but the green stuff, anyway) and called it good. It tasted right, anyway, so I guess that's close enough.

I spent most of my work day today thinking about all the things I could make for dinner today - soups of various sorts (I was leaning toward one with meatballs in it) and then chili (I've got some in the freezer...) and then mashed potatoes with gravy. Obviously that was the thought that stuck. And then I had to think of something else to eat with gravy. And something else to eat with that.

The rosemary gravy is something I've made (or tried to make) before, so that meant turkey scallopini (which is what I first had the gravy with), but I couldn't FIND turkey scallopini, so a butterflied chicken breast did in the pinch. The bok choy was the first vegetable I saw in the store that popped out at me. (After kohlrabi and fennel anyway. But I didn't know what to do with those.)

And finally, the red plate is used in honour of the fact that I woke up to a mountain of snow (and more falling all day...). I despise winter. Why do I have to live somewhere so cold, hm?

26 November 2007

Rotini with Moroccan-spiced Root Vegetable Sauce

Okay. I think was even better as a pasta sauce than in its incarnation as a baked potato topping. This was a pretty fantastic use of leftovers. (And I'm having it for lunch tomorrow. Yum.) I think I may have helped it out a little by adding the rest of the can of tomatoes, plus a bit more of each of the spices.

I really like the brand of pasta that I used today, Barilla Plus. It's not very common in the grocery stores up here (Catelli and Primo are the two most common) and, alas, I picked up the box when they were being discontinued at the store I work at. What I like is that it's got a really great texture and it holds its shape perfectly. And for a whole wheat pasta, it's not the least bit slimy, tough or just plain horrible.

At any rate, this was a really great sauce to use on a whole wheat pasta because the flavour was quite intense and hearty and robust enough to stand up to the pasta without being overwhelmed by it.

25 November 2007

Baked Potato with Moroccan-Spiced Root Vegetables

This was a really tasty dinner. I found the recipe by way of Little Foodies, who created it for the Pimp My Potato challenge at The Great Big Vegetable Challenge, though of course my version came out a bit different. I couldn't find any celeriac and the parsnips only came in a 5lb bag (and since I use perhaps two a year that seemed like a bad way to buy one), so my version was as follows:

2 to 2-1/2 cups of vegetables, comprised of the following items:
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- red onion (I used half a small one)
- 2 carrots
- 1 small turnip
- rutabaga (aka Swede) until the measuring cup was full

Dice them all up to approximately the same size - they're meant to be about 1cm cubed, but I think mine came out a bit smaller. Drizzle over with a good bit of olive oil and add as much of the following mixture as you think you need and then stir to coat evenly:

Ras al-Hanut (found here, but much cut down, since I knew I wouldn't use it all).
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
a pinch each of freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and paprika

I only used about half of this mixture, but I probably could have used all of it - I forgot that adding tomatoes would dilute the flavour a bit.

Roast the vegetables at 375F for 45 minutes or so, then stir in half a can of diced tomatoes with their juice, roast an additional 10 minutes. Taste and add a bit of salt and more pepper if necessary.

Serve atop a lovely baked potato and gorge yourself on the delicious flavours.

I actually ate this along with a chicken breast that I'd done like Shake and Bake chicken (but made by me instead of the company), which is hiding in the cut-off portion of the picture because I forgot to put a bit of fat on top, so it didn't brown well and looked a bit bland (though it tasted good). In the end, I didn't eat more than the first two bites because the potato was too good and too filling, so I sliced it up and put it in a sandwich for lunch tomorrow at work.

The leftover vegetables have been refrigerated and I suspect that they might make an appearance on pasta tomorrow (with the other half can of tomatoes and some more spices).

22 November 2007

Vegetable Beef Bundles

I think I've posted too many things in the last couple days because I don't really feel like saying anything this time around. It looks tasty, though. (I think. Even if I did singe it a little.)


This was more or less a tasty and sort of dramatic looking way to serve steak and vegetables. The meat was meant to be like Korean Bulgogi (in the sense that it's marinated and grilled beef), and it was a pretty similar recipe to most of the versions I've looked at online. The flavour of the marinade was pretty plain - a hint of sesame, but otherwise it tasted like a sweet soy sauce - so I think when I make this again I'll have to add some diced hot pepper to the marinade. It tasted quite good with the lettuce, also, so I think next time I'll make them and then wrap them with lettuce leaves to eat.

Perfect Brown Rice

I am a convert to Jack Bishop's method of cooking brown rice.

The problem with brown rice is that it tends to be a bit sticky in a bad way. Or kind of waterlogged and heavy. Or just always texturally not very exciting. It's like a lump of unpleasantness that is best served with saucy things that hide it a bit. (My exception to the rule is a brown rice blend with wild rice. In particular, the one made by Lundberg, which is absolutely fantastic. I haven't made it in a long while because the last time I did I managed to smoke out the entire upstairs whilst reducing the rice to a lump of black charcoal. Yes, really. But it is a really, really tasty blend.)

At any rate, Jack Bishop's book A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen offers up a solution to the brown rice problem. (Though he rightly points out that brown rice just isn't suited to every dish, and nutritional benefits be damned, sometimes you just have to eat the white stuff.) The method sounds a little fussy, but it only adds one extra bit of kitchen hardware - the steamer insert - and one extra step. It doesn't add extra time.

So here's the way to do it:

Cook the rice like pasta, in a ton of water (he uses one part rice, six parts water), for about 30 minutes. Drain it into a steamer insert. Put about an inch of water back into the pot and return to the heat. Put the steamer insert back into the pot, cover, and steam for another ten minutes.

The results should be fluffy with individual grains of rice, rather than the sodden lump (or crunchy lump, depending on your usual results) that the directions on the bag generally give.

I made it yesterday and I don't think I've ever had such good brown rice. (Which I promptly mixed into a bowl of chili, thus rendering the extra step a bit of a waste, since the usual old brown rice would have sufficed. BUT I made four servings and froze the rest for later.)

21 November 2007

Ginger-Soy Chicken on Iceberg Lettuce

Among the anti-fan set, Rachael Ray is often derided for being (among a great many other things) an endorsement whore. I'd never really seen proof of it, maybe because I'm Canadian and my exposure is thus a bit limited? I don't know. At any rate, I work at a Safeway store and they play over the intercom what I call Safeway radio. It's basically just a set playlist of vaguely pleasing (to some, I suppose) pop and a few classics intercut with some ads for various products or items that are on special and a lot of pharmacy related content. (Diabetes is a popular subject.)

Well, a few days ago I noticed a new ad. "Hi guys! Rachael Ray here!" etcetera endorsing Nabisco crackers. So in honour of Rachael Ray, endorsement whore, I decided to cook one of her recipes.

I actually own her book 365: No Repeats and have made two or three things from it in the past. And say what anyone will about her, I still like the food she makes. This was no exception. The crunchy iceberg lettuce was a really delicious change from noodles or rice, and the flavour was just right: a little sweet and a little gingery and a little spicy without being too much of any of those things.

19 November 2007

Recipe: Chicken Couscous Cakes

This recipe comes from Jean Pare's Company's Coming Whole Grain Recipes cookbook. It's a little bit fussy to make, and messy. (It stuck to my hands really badly when I made the cakes.) But I really thought the taste was worth it.

This is the recipe as written, but I made half (still using a whole egg, since it seemed to need the extra liquid) and it worked quite well.

1/4 cup whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup boiling water

1 tsp oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup red pepper, finely chopped

2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 cup wild rice, cooked
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp garlic and herb seasoning (I used an Italian seasoning blend)

1 egg, fork beaten
1/2 cup jalapeño Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Cook couscous according to package directions.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan. Cook onion and pepper until softened, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Add chicken, rice, bread crumbs, seasoning and couscous to cooked vegetables. Stir together. Add cheese and egg, mixing well to combine.
4. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape into patties. Arrange on greased baking sheet. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until firm.

The recipe doesn't suggest it, but I served mine over an herb/baby greens mix with some balsamic vinaigrette and a (small) quartered tomato.

Tortellini Stirfry

Okay, so I said elsewhere that this dinner wasn't bad but that it's too weird to be good. And that's about the most I can say: too weird to be good.

I had a lot of tortellini leftover from when I made soup with it a while back, so I decided to use a little more of it up (I froze the extras) and went to Olivieri's website to see what recipes they'd have up there. (The tortellini is actually Olivieri's Whole Wheat Beef and Vegetable Tortelloni. I don't know what the difference is between tortellini and tortelloni, but apparently there is one?) So there was this weird looking recipe for tortellini with stir-fried vegetables.

How could I not try it? (I won't try it again, mind.)

They didn't show a picture on the website, which I think is because it's not the most attractive looking dish. (Though if I worked like a food photographer, I'd have kept the sauce off the vegetables, and poured it on artfully so that the vegetables would all look pristine and beautiful.) Anyway, it wasn't bad tasting. It smelled really good, actually. But I'm just not sure my brain or taste buds are prepared to accept the flavour combination of soy sauce and pesto.

17 November 2007

Chicken and Chickpea Chipotle Chili

I seem to make chili quite a lot. But it just always tastes good, and you can do it a million different ways.

This one used up some leftover chicken, a lot of green and red pepper, and some chickpeas I'd frozen a while back. My sister's friend - Hi Tanya! Thanks Tanya! - sent some spices over to our place in hopes we'd use them, and one of them was a jar of chipotle chili powder, so I used that rather than regular chili powder. At first my impression was that it was a lot hotter than regular chili powder, but I don't think that it is at all. I think it was actually only hotter in comparison to our chili powder that has been sitting around for so long it probably is only half so potent as it once was. At any rate, after that initial taste, it was the smokiness of the chipotle that I really noticed, as well as a richness from the cocoa and balsamic vinegar that were different additions than any of my usuals.

This was good, definitely worth a remake somewhere down the line.

16 November 2007

Chicken Couscous Cakes on Mesclun

My mom bought me a recipe book for my birthday or maybe for Christmas that focuses on whole grains. I've never cooked anything out of it before, but I had a bag of wild rice I wanted to start using up, so I cracked the spine, and made myself Chicken Couscous Cakes. It was sort of a two day operation, since I made the wild rice and bought a deli chicken on Wednesday, and then actually assembled everything on Thursday. (I was too tired and/or lazy to cook on Wednesday.)

Anyway, they were very tasty. They're made (mostly) of whole wheat couscous, wild rice, chicken, and vegetables. And they sort of, together, reminded me of chicken and stuffing baked into little cakes. It has a little bit of jalapeño jack cheese in them, but I couldn't taste it at all, so I think I might skip that if I make these again. But I think I'll add some red pepper flakes when I'm cooking the vegetables because I think it could stand up to some heat.

I've become fond of eating hot foods on lettuce and I'm really not sure why. Usually I'd get all squicked about (possibly) wilty lettuce, but this just seemed to work. A little lettuce, some vinaigrette, and a bite of my little chicken cake all together was just perfect.

ETA: This was a part of my on-going quest to use up what's in my cupboard. It probably says something about me that I won't like that I would choose a recipe that uses one ingredient I have - wild rice - but requires me to buy two more that I don't - couscous and bread crumbs.

13 November 2007

Pinwheel Gift Block

I made this block for one of the members of my livejournal group, Birthday Blocks. She had requested any pinwheel block done in lavender and butter yellow with accents of spring green.

So it's a bit more vibrant than lavender, butter, and spring green. But I actually really like the effect, and I hope the recipient does too. She had gotten one block with some really dark purple in it (darker even than this) and so I hoped to help balance things out a little by adding some more dark. I really hope that it helps. As for 'spring green' I wasn't entirely sure what that meant, so I just found something that popped. It pops a little too much, I think, since the lavender actually sinks back (you don't notice so much that it's also a part of the pinwheel).

At any rate, I really hope the recipient liked it, even though it didn't quite fit her requests.

12 November 2007

Spicy Beef and Refried Beans with Fresh Salsa, Toxic Cheese Sludge and Taco Chips

I'm so in love with these dishes that I'm going to find a way to put everything I eat into them for, like, the next month, I think.

Anyway, I hadn't had any liquid cheese food in a while, so I picked some up over the weekend to have with the last bit of refried beans and beef that I'd made and frozen quite a long time ago. Today I just heated everything and made up a quick fresh salsa to go along with it.

Tasty goodness. (But no more cheese product for me for a long while. It makes my stomach very unhappy a short time after making my tongue very happy.)

10 November 2007

Quinoa Pilaf with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Pecans

I have a bunch of weird grains like Amaranth and Quinoa and Buckwheat (not so weird for some, I know) and mostly I've only used them once. And only for breakfast foods, but I don't really care for hot breakfasts all that much. So I need to find other ways to use them up.

This quinoa recipe came from a really lovely cookbook I've got - A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop. If you google the title of the book, it'll bring you to that google books thing where you can see several of the recipes from the book (not this one, however). I've only made a couple of things from the book so far, but they were both really good. (The other can be seen here.)

Anyway, it was really simple to make, which was fantastic since I started cooking at 9PM, and quite tasty.

Fabric Origami Ninepatch

I mentioned in the comments in my last entry that I had thought about making a quilt for my mom with a bunch of ugly floral prints that I own made into these origami flowers. Well, the idea morphed a little, so that it'll be for my grandmother rather than my mom because I've already got two projects half finished for my mom, and I think she'd probably rather I finish one of those than start with something entirely new. (Also, my grandma is quite hard to buy for - what does she want for Christmas at her age? Not much. She just buys whatever she needs, always.)

Anyway, this photo is just to show the basic idea of the thing. It'll be composed of nine patches like this one (which hasn't been sewn together), alternated with nine patches in green and that beige floral print. The green, like the flowers, will be made of a variety of different green prints, so that it's all going to be quite scrappy.

I have such a hard time with scrappy quilts but my grandma comes from the If You've Got the Fabric, Use the Fabric school of quilting, so my sister has quilts in the basement from her that are black and red in the sashing and borders, but have pink blocks and every other colour imaginable, whether or not it matches. And I love those quilts, so I'm going to struggle through my natural dislike of making scrappy quilts myself. And it's a good way to use up some of the really ugly florals my mom has bought me over the years.

Anyway, I plan to tie this quilt. There will be buttons in the centre of each flower, so I can either tie down from there or I could sew the buttons on before making the sandwich and then tie the quilt when I tack down the petals of the flowers. In either case, neither option tells me what to do about the green sections of the quilt. Hmm...

08 November 2007

Cavatappi with Spinach and Pine Nuts

This was tasty, if not fantastic. It's pretty basic - pasta with pine nuts toasted in butter, wilted spinach, and some dried cranberries and blueberries. The recipe I was kind of sort of following asked for port soaked currents. I didn't have currents or port and wasn't going to buy either, but I can see the benefit in soaking the fruit. I think if I make this again, I'll let them cook a bit with the pine nuts and see if they soften up a bit.

I think I'm going to be sick to death of spinach if I eat it again anytime soon.

Turkey Burger with Steamed Broccoli and Edamame

Another sort of blurry picture (it looks better in this small version than it does at full-size). Anyway, it might be just as well because edamame are not super pretty. (Or these ones aren't, anyway.)

A little while ago I bought some of those Glad microwave bags for steaming vegetables because I wondered how well they'd work. And then I was a bit dumb and did the broccoli and edamame together. Which left me with slightly overcooked broccoli, and slightly undercooked edamame. At any rate, they were both tasty, just not quite as tasty as they might have been.

This is the first time I'd ever made edamame before, so I just assumed they'd cook up similarly to snow peas or sugar snap peas, but the actual beans are a lot more solid than a pea, hence the not quite cooking enough. Flavour-wise I liked them, anyway.

05 November 2007

Turkey Spinach Gratin

There isn't all that much to say about this one, really, it's just a really simple, easy to make casserole that is pretty tasty and a good way to use up leftover turkey. I've been eating a lot of turkey lately, haven't I? And spinach.

I used fat-reduced cheese on this, and it really shows in the weird way that cheese melted on top. I tried and tried to brown the cheese under the broiler, but this was as far as I got it after several minutes. I was going to wind up burning everything else, though, so I gave up on it.

Turkey Tomato Roll-ups

This is kind of yesterday's lunch redux. I didn't put the soup in the picture again, because day old wilted spinach (even in soup) doesn't look so hot. And also I didn't feel like transferring it to a prettier dish than the plastic container it was stored in. So.

This time I did put a bit more effort into the roll-ups. Not much more effort, but some. I added some sliced cheddar cheese, a bit of sliced red pepper, and a couple spoonfuls of a jarred bruschetta mix that my mom left out here.

04 November 2007

Vegetable - Tortellini Soup with Turkey Roll-ups

Mmm... I love soup. Though it's not the best picture - the soup kind of looks muddy, but it's a very dark broth that I used, and the roll-ups are so white/beige that they look unappetizing, but I was too tired and lazy to cut up red pepper or lettuce or anything to tuck in with the turkey and mozzarella. Thank goodness it all tasted good.

It amuses me to compare my photo to the one in the book the soup came from, where there are four perfect looking tortellini, one in each quadrant of the bowl, and a few pieces of each of the other ingredients - carrot, zucchini, tomato, yellow (though I used red) pepper, spinach - showing to their best advantage. Me... I just spoon it into the bowl, might stir it around a bit to get some more stuff showing, and then decide that it's good enough.

02 November 2007

Orzo Salad with Cranberries, Spinach, and Feta

If I ever manage to line the foods I eat up with the season I'm living in... I'll have to make this in summer, for something outside, like a picnic, I guess. (Though I can't actually remember the last time I ate outside. Or if I ever had a picnic.)

This is a variation, which I found at Ventures with Veggies, on Giada De Laurentiis's Tri-Colore Orzo salad recipe (which you can see here) made with dried, sweetened cranberries in place of the cherries, spinach instead of arugula, feta instead of ricotta, no basil or pinenuts, and way less olive oil. It was really light and delicate (and not at all suited to the cold weather we've been having) and wonderful and very pretty

01 November 2007

Sausage and Pepper Scrambled Eggs with Sautéed Potatoes

October was a kind of uninspiring month for me, food-wise. I only made (according to my photos, anyway) 12 things new and interesting enough to be photographed. Which isn't a lot, at all. So I'm hoping that I'll be a little better this month about cooking. But this wasn't a very inspiring start, was it?

I've said before that eggs are sort of my stand-by dinner when I'm feeling tired and lazy and don't really want to put in effort... but I've made eggs plenty of times that have at least looked nicer than this. It tasted quite good, but looks like a mess on a plate. It is a mess on a plate. (I don't like scrambled eggs - they never look nice, really.)

If I don't go out for dinner tomorrow, I'll be making something much more interesting, though, so I hope the photos turn out. And I hope this month I manage more than 12 days of cooking new things.

30 October 2007

Shepherd's Pie

I've often thought about making Shepard's pie (or something similar) but have never done it because it always seemed like it would be a lot of work, but I made one today. (And it wasn't much work at all. Too many dishes, though.) I don't think it's a proper Shepherd's Pie because it's made with chicken and a ton of vegetables instead of beef, but it really tasted too good for me to care.

This version, which comes from a Weight Watcher's cookbook I have, uses cooked chicken breast, corn, carrots, spinach, and onion with herbs and a gravy (I made gravy! And it worked!), and is topped with mashed potatoes and Parmesan cheese. (I don't think you can go wrong with Parmesan cheese.)

I think if I make it again I'm going to adjust the seasonings to have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (it's a tasty combination, at least with sausage, so why not with chicken?) and I'll add some more salt and pepper. The seasonings weren't off or bad this time, but I might as well adjust to make it taste ways that make me happiest.

Turkey and Garbanzo Bean Vegetable Soup

We had quite a lot of turkey leftover from our post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving supper, so I decided to make soup with some of the leftovers. I found an interesting sounding recipe for a crock-pot vegetable soup with garbanzo beans and chicken in it, so substituting in the turkey... this is what I wound up with.

I went out for dinner with a friend, so I didn't get to eat any of my soup when it was finished, but I took a bowl of it to work with me today (hence the plastic bowl) and it was really very good. I probably could have seasoned it a little bit more, but it was tasty as it was. (And I've got leftovers for another two lunches, so that's pretty great too.)

28 October 2007

Turkey Dinner

So we had a big turkey dinner today -- a belated Thanksgiving. Or an early American Thanksgiving. Whichever. Or maybe just turkey for the sake of turkey, it isn't like we discussed things we're thankful for or anything like that. (Do people do that?)

Anyway, this is pretty typical of a big family-style dinner at my place. My brother-in-law makes the turkey (or chicken) and mashed potatoes and his Russian salad. (There are two dishes of that on this table, both on the left, one in the small egg shaped bowl and the other in a crystal dish. One has sour cream, the other doesn't.) My sister made the stuffing and the gravy. And I made the tomato/cucumber salad.

The turkey doesn't look like a turkey because it fell off the bone when my sister and bro-in-law tried to move it onto the platter. It was ridiculously tasty. The meat I had was faintly citrus tasting, and a little garlicky, and very very yummy. Everything thing else was really good too, but I practically never have turkey, so that was the bit that stands out most.

Also, it's not in the picture, but my sister's friend came over for turkey too, and she brought a yummy dessert with whipped cream and fruit on it. Mmm... dessert.

25 October 2007

Roast Spiced Chicken with Steamed Snow Peas and Roast New Potatoes

Okay, so my attempt to get back to eating food that isn't completely devoid of nutrition hasn't gone completely well - I had nothing for dinner yesterday and have eaten almost nothing but chili since I made it. But tonight I put in very minimal effort and got seriously high returns.

So. Good.

I know it all kind of looked a little singed around the edges, but the chicken is just blackened and the potatoes actually roasted nicely, and... well, the sugar snap peas are a little singed, but they don't taste like it.

The chicken recipe was really, really fantastic. It was a tiny bit spicy (not spicy, really, but it just had a nice edge to it) with a delicious hit of cinnamon. I'll probably make this again and again because it's really that good (and that easy).

As for the potatoes... well, they're pretty basic roasted potatoes. They're just done with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and marjoram. But it was my first time cooking a purple potato! So that's was kind of exciting. I'm always trying to talk myself into trying new fruits and vegetables, but I don't do it all that often. And then when I do, I had to go for something boring like a fancy potato instead of, say, rambutan or mangosteen, but purple potatoes sure do look neat.

22 October 2007

Chili on Brown Rice

It's boring, I know, but at least it's tasty. And leaves enough leftovers to keep my freezer stocked for a bit for the days I'm feeling particularly lazy.

I haven't been feeling too great, lately, and needed to get myself out of that mire. So I spent today cleaning my room, doing ALL my laundry (instead of just bits as needed), taking care of stuff I've been letting slide (like sending payments for seriously overdue bills), and making this. Not that chili requires much work. But that's what made it perfect. It's healthy and tasty and a good no-recipe-necessary meal to ease me back into cooking again. It's been too many days of eating cottage cheese on toast and other no effort required foods that don't have enough nutritional value.

19 October 2007

Fabric Folding - Origami Flower Pillows

I was reading a quilting blog - A Canary's Life... The Caged Bird Sings - today that talked about fabric origami and linked to an HGTV site giving directions on how to make a folded flower. And hey - I've done that before!

I haven't felt like sewing in the last little while, so I haven't really had anything new going on to talk about, and then I thought about posting old stuff, but I didn't want to do a big photo-dump. So maybe just dribs and drabs like this, when I think of something specific.

Anyway, these five pillows are just a few of MANY that I made for Christmas gifts in 2005. They're just tiny little things - if I remember right, they're 6x6-in square. But for a long time I've thought about making them smaller yet in order to make pin/needle cushions. I just don't know what you use to "stuff" a pin cushion. (I assume it's not just batting?)

At any rate, the second picture is the only larger scale thing I made using the pattern. It was also a Christmas gift, though that one was for my cousin, who is a huge fan of dragonflies. I found the dragonfly/snail print and decided that bugs would work with flowers. It's a 14" pillow.

Some day I think I'd like to make a full-size quilt full of those little flowers, but they're definite fabric hogs, so it's a big hard for me to commit to something on a larger scale. (Each 4" flower requires a 9" square of fabric.) It sort of feels wasteful. Hm. On the other hand, maybe it's what I can do with all the ugly floral fabrics my mom likes to buy me even though she knows I don't like them. I could make her a throw, or something.